My first memory of the Bay Bridge was the claustrophobic feeling I got when coming in from the San Francisco airport on the lower deck. It was in that moment that I began to comprehend just how different life might be in another place. Four lanes of traffic, all surging eastward, with the wishes that nothing bad would happen ahead of them. Or above. Just a few feet over our heads was an equally busy four lanes of traffic heading in the opposite direction. I had seen the pictures, of course. The ones from the 1989 earthquake when a huge chunk of the upper deck collapsed down on top of the lower. Because of the rare lack of cars on the bridge brought on by the Bay Bridge Series, only one person lost their life in that location. A month later, the major thoroughfare from East Bay to West was repaired and back in order. It was that image that stayed in my mind until we were clear of the bridge and back to the relative safety of Oakland.
Then there was the moment when I realized that, after decades of watching the film over and over, "The Graduate" had a major flaw: Benjamin Braddock is driving up from southern California to chase after the elusive Elaine Robinson in Berkeley. It makes sense that a guy who owns an Alfa Romeo Spider convertible would probably prefer to drive up the coast with the top down, but if was in such a hurry, why didn't he drive up Interstate 5? Even so, if he found himself on the Bay Bridge, and he wanted to go to Berkeley, he wouldn't be on the top deck where the helicopter could see him. It never spoiled the movie for me, but I did get a sense of smug superiority as I watched that scene after I moved to the Bay Area.
Now we're getting a new one. Well, part of a new one. The east span of the Bay Bridge is being replaced. After years of questioning why I had to pay toll to get into San Francisco, I can now feel that I have invested in a shiny new icon for postcards to come. There will still be an opportunity for that claustrophobic feeling as we make our way from Treasure Island into "The City," but an era will come to an end this weekend when that relic from the thirties closes and a whole new age begins. When I start paying toll to pay for yet another bridge.